The new Lovettsville farmers’ market had a successful debut Sunday, according to Lovettsville Cooperative Market President Warren Howell. The market is a joint partnership between the co-operative and Market Table Bistro.
The new market opened at 10 a.m. in the parking lot belonging to dentist Dr. Carroll Johnston behind the restaurant. By its close at 1 p.m., Howell said, the market was pretty much sold out, apart from some eggs and meats. Market Table Bistro’s chef Jason Lage prepared the first of a weekly selection of take-away foods in addition to the produce, dairy and meat products.
“It was wonderful. We had a steady flow of people and sold out of almost everything, except kale,” Howell said Monday. He took over interim head of the co-operative from Pamela Baldwin last month and he praised the co-operative volunteers for their efficient organization of the market and said the market was able to finish with a “couple of hundred dollars” over and above its initial cash float.
The venture is an offshoot of the Lovettsville co-operative, instituted to introduce residents to the kinds of food it hopes eventually to sell and to use as a recruitment tool for the co-operative. The organization is in an initial membership recruitment phase.
Many of the visitors to the market were residents whom Howell had not seen before at a previous Lovettsville farm market, one that failed to gain traction after three years’ efforts. Howell said he was encouraged that several people said they would consider joining the co-operative.
But the operation did not go entirely smoothly. Area farmer Paul Traub and his partner Kathleen Cleary, who grow produce and raise meats and eggs on a portion of Traub’s 55 acres on George’s Mill Road, were upset their request to sell their produce and eggs through the market was not accepted.
Traub applied in early May to Farm Market Manager Hannah Funk. According to Howell, Funk told Traub the market had sufficient suppliers for the season and did not need any more at present, although the situation might change as the season progressed.
Traub then approached Howell, whom he said told him he would be going to Leesburg on Saturdays to purchase produce and meats to be sold at the Lovettsville market on Sundays. Both Howell and Baldwin noted the Lovettsville co-operative is a consumer co-operative, not a producer co-operative and that’s an important distinction, the co-operative leaders said. The Lovettsville co-operative handles the entire organization of the market, including the sales side of the operation, unlike the normal producers’ market where vendors staff their own booths.
After the failure of the previous Lovettsville market, Howell said, “We knew we needed something different.” He negotiated with a number of producers at the Loudoun Valley HomeGrown Market Cooperative farm market in Leesburg to bring extra to that market, which he then purchases at a wholesale price to be sold in Lovettsville. Howell sells berries at the Leesburg market and said he selected vendors whom he knew well—both local and from farther afield—who could provide a reliable supply. “This is a hybrid market. It’s small and I knew we could not get good vendors to come to Lovettsville to sell small amounts,” he said.
Today, Traub said he was told he had to be a member of the co-operative for his items to be accepted for the Lovettsville market, but Howell said that was not a requirement. Traub paid the $200 co-operative membership fee, appearing to think that entitled him to sell his produce through the market. He now wants his money back, saying he was misled. Howell confirmed Traub had joined the co-operative, but said that did not qualify him to be a member of the farm market, which is a separate entity. Arrangements have been made to reimburse Traub, according to Howell.
Traub also criticized the co-operative for not using produce grown by local producers in Lovettsville. Not so, according to Howell: “We are already supporting local farmers.” He noted six of the 16 producers in the Lovettsville market are from the Lovettsville area. Four more are from elsewhere in Loudoun; three from in Virginia and three are not from Virginia—but within the 125-mile-radius permitted under the LVHGA cooperative rules.
As the market and co-operative grows, “We will be looking at more local farmers,” Howell said.
Traub remained unconvinced. “I understood a co-operative was a co-operative. I am very disappointed.” He predicted the market would fail because in part its prices were too high. “I think it’s a farce,” he said. Traub and Cleary will consider going to another Loudoun farm market, but also are thinking of operating a farm stand in Lovettsville.